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Are job boards dead yet? Why not?

When was the last time someone asked you, ‘Hey, aren’t job boards dead already?’ For me, it’s pretty much every couple of weeks. Really. The question isn’t asked in hostility (usually), but in more of a tone of bewilderment. Why? Because ‘job boards are dead’ is common wisdom, at least among those outside of the recruitment industry. And what is ‘common wisdom’? Usually, something that has been repeated often enough that people believe it, whether it is true or not.

The job board industry is estimated to generate around $20 billion per year on a global basis. That’s right, billion with a ‘b’. I don’t about you, but when I get into billions of dollars in revenue, I have trouble thinking that an industry is dead. Maybe I’m biased.

Seriously, though: how does an idea like ‘job boards are dead’ take hold? Well, before I answer that, let me propose a definition of a job board: it is a platform for bringing candidates and employers together. The candidate wants a job, the employer wants an employee (or contractor, as it were), and when the two connect, they can both achieve their goals. In the 90s, a job board was literally ‘classifieds online’. As the industry matured and technology advanced, so did job boards. You could have an open resume database – LinkedIn. You could have Google Adwords for hiring – Indeed. You could have a marketplace – Upwork. And so on. What was once an online copy of newspaper classifieds has now become a mix of different models. But each service, at its core, is still seeking to achieve the same objective: to bring candidates and employers together.

So how did the ‘job boards are dead’ mantra get started? I remember it gaining traction in the early days of social media, when social evangelists were promising the sky for their technologies. It was useful to have a foil when promoting social recruiting, and job boards were a handy option. Sites like Monster and CareerBuilder had become bloated, overpriced, and full of themselves, so they made easy targets. Yet even as the industry demise was being proclaimed, that same industry continued to grow. Then, as each new recruiting trend rose (AI! programmatic! etc.), the evangelists promoting those trends resurrected the cry that ‘job boards are dead’ and ‘recruiting is broken’.

I guess you can see how the idea might get stuck in a person’s head.

So what’s the reality? First, the moniker ‘job board’ is outdated – but it’s not going anywhere. Everyone understands that a job board is where someone finds a job. It’s not an accurate term, just like ‘cell phone’ doesn’t begin to describe the mobile computers we stick in our pockets. But that doesn’t matter – it’s a term that is stuck in peoples’ heads. Second, tech evangelists will always need something to promote against – that’s just how things work. I do it, you do it, we all do it. And finally – as you may have noticed from how I describe the ‘job board and recruitment marketing industry’, our industry is continuing to grow and evolve. Job boards have proven to be very good at adapting and absorbing in order to remain competitive. The world’s largest tech companies understand this: Microsoft, Facebook, and Google are all making long term investments in recruiting.

So yeah…are job boards dead? Not really. 

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